Originally Posted by Boxster1971
Great post IB. I'd like to hear more of your ideas. The black tank systems in B-van are surely not acceptable if you have to stay isolated off-grid for more than a few days. I guess that is why the current urine separating (aka "composting") toilets are popular among those who spend a lot of time out in the wilderness in dryer western areas. But they do have limitations as you have mentioned in humid climates.
"I'd like to hear more of your ideas"
Heh. Well, that probably puts YOU in a striking minority. Researching this challenge online and across multiple cultures, I was struck by the extent to which people do NOT want to talk about it. I realize that it's not a warm fuzzy type of topic, and it's fraught with TMI hazards, but unless we talk about it, nobody can make improvements either personally or commercially. And it's really important both for small living spaces like vans, and in the context of hygiene in the developing world, where there is hardly a more important concern, given the disease seeded by improper waste management.
The Adinaros broke down some of these barriers to discussion - there's a good reason why their YouTube video has three quarters of a million views. I cannot un-see James holding up a plate of mashed potatoes to indicate feces volume, or Stef talking about the hazards of "heavy flow".
Far Out Ride has also been unusually frank
in their review of the Nature's Head brand toilet.
Here are a few observations:
(1) Our entire first-world system of wastewater management world-wide (i.e., conventional sewerage) has been built around one reality - female anatomy. It's really all about women, and males are just along for the ride, using whatever systems have been developed to primarily accommodate the legitimate needs of women. We cannot change the fact that women have extremely limited control over how they void, and whatever happens to evolve this market will need to embrace the full extent of that limitation - which commercial options do not currently do.
(2) Designs like Nature's Head are a step in the right direction, but they are still embracing a western throne toilet paradigm with these downsides:
(2a) There's no individuality built into it. The more intimately one must manage one's own human waste, the more desirable it is to have that be an individual rather than a collective process - it's less yucky that way (not much less, but every little bit counts).
So really, a single urine receptacle in a throne toilet is a discouraging prospect. If I must come into closer contact with urine, can I at least limit it to being my very own and not somebody else's mixed in with it? Please?
Individualized urine collection also desirable in that container volume can be more closely managed. If you are peeing into your own receptacle exclusively, then you are naturally keeping closer mental tabs on when it needs to be emptied - you just know instinctively where you are at, volume-wise. The Nature's Head is so notorious for overflowing urine that successive versions of the toilet have begun to include a secondary containment structure, so the overage won't end up on the floor. That's happening because when everyone is contributing, nobody is monitoring.
(2b) There's no mechanism built into the Nature's Head to mitigate accidents, or to ease the burdens when mixture accidents are not a risk. If you miss your mark on urine delivery and some gets into the solids compartment, there's no workaround at that point. To say the same thing another way, the design saddles the user with constant "composting" toilet structural limitations (namely a small urine aiming area which is very difficult for women) even when the user knows that she is going #1 with no possibility of #2 being a part of that voiding event.
(2c) As I understand it, the Nature's Head urine receptacle is not sealed between uses. It's a small hole, or pair of holes, leading into it, but it's still a constantly-breathing container (pressure equalizing). I'm sorry, we can do better than that - and we have to, in the small space of a van.
Here's a rudimentary idea that I came up with which makes progress on those limitations listed above: Even before the pandemic, we started using portable medical urinals in lieu of the Nature's Head built-in urine receptacle, given that we have a wet bath gravity toilet. I started doing this for short trips when I simply did not wish to use the black tank because it would create more work (in the form of tank dumping) than it would save by having a toilet system in the van in the first place. I then expanded the use of this method during the early part of the pandemic when so many businesses were closed or restricted. I was hoping not to use the van toilet, but I couldn't use anybody else's toilets either.
Of course, portable urine collection devices are almost impossible for women to use. But the van provides an opportunity for a multi-stage workaround for that, which a toilet like the Nature's Head does not. The process goes like this:
Step 1: Uncap the device shown in the screenshot below, and position it in the wet bath toilet bowl while the toilet has no water in it. Just set it in the bottom.
Step 2: Rotate the handle around to face the front of the toilet.
Step 3: Squat over the container, reach between the legs, grab the handle, and use that control to press the device to the female anatomy in the exact location where it needs to be. The handle is key because it maintains total control over container placement.
Step 4: Pee into it.
Step 5: Accept that, with female anatomy, even if you get good at doing this, there will be accidents. It'll be that groggy midnight potty run when you thought you had the alignment optimized but you really did not.
But here's the beauty of this approach - any leakage falls directly into the wet bath toilet. All you need to do is cap the container and rinse off the sides into the toilet itself, and flush that amount, which is so minor that it won't cause you to need to dump your black tank. Then lift out the rinsed and externally-cleaned container, and place it beside the toilet for storage (a pair of these wedge securely between the wet bath wall and the toilet in the T1N Interstate).
Step 6: Deposit the wiping toilet paper in a sealed zip lock bag, same as what Maggie does to relieve some of the issues with black tank dumping. Place in trash or burn in camp fire after accumulated.
Is it perfect? Absolutely not - nothing ever will be, in this context. Does it work? Yes. Not knowing what dumping facilities would be open, and facing both quarantine restrictions and a certain amount of xenophobia in some of the states we crossed (notably NY, NJ, and CT), dear husband and I diverted our urine in this manner on our cross-continent trek northward in early August. We were AMAZED at how much better our entire van smelled as a result of doing that. Even if you THINK your wet bath toilet is not stinking, there's a low level of permeating odor there to which you have become "nose blind", as the marketing term alleges. It is present, even if it's below your level of conscious awareness. I bet you will notice it when it is gone.
Before we left on that trip, I started a thread in the Plumbing section of Air Forums called "Question - neutralizing urine in collection containers
". Several people tried to tell me that pure urine that is well-segregated from oxygen and organic matter really does not need to be odor-neutralized. While I still think that there is room for improvement on this front, it wasn't as bad as I feared it might be. Urine captured this way did not develop strong odors. There was minimal grossness upon dumping the containers.
Here's the medical device we used, a pair of these, one for each person: